Collins Modern CI
Harriet the Spy
Illustrated by Louise Fitzhugh
An imprint o/HarperCollinsft<Ww&ers
First published in the USA by Harper and Row 1964
First published in Great Britain by Collins 1980
First published as a Collins Modern Classic 2003
Collins Modern Classics is an imprint of HarperCollinsPaWzs^ers Ltd, 77-85
Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith, London W6 8JB
The HarperCollins website address is www.harpercollins.co.uk
Text copyright © Louise Fitzhugh 1968
Illustrations by Louise Fitzhugh
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author and illustrator of
ISBN 00 715502 6
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St Ives pic
Conditions of Sale
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or
otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the
publisher's written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in
which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition
being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Harriet was trying to explain to Sport how to play
Town. "See, first you make up the name of the town. Then
you write down the names of all the people who live in it.
You can't have too many or it gets too hard. I usually have
"Ummmm." Sport "was tossing a football in the air. They
were in the courtyard of Harriet's house on East Eighty-
seventh Street in Manhattan.
"Then when you know "who lives there, you make up
what they do. For instance, Mr Charles Hanley runs the
Harriet the Spy
filling station on the corner." Harriet spoke thoughtfully as
she squatted next to the big tree, bending so low over her
notebook that her long straight hair touched the edges.
"Don'tcha wanta play football?" Sport asked.
"Now, listen, Sport, you never did this and it's fun. Now
over here next to this curve in the mountain we'll put the
filling station. So if anything happens there, you remember
where it is."
Sport tucked the football under his arm and walked
over to her. "That's nothing but an old tree root. Whaddya
mean, a mountain?"
"That's a mountain. From now on that's a mountain.
Got it?" Harriet looked up into his face.
Sport moved back a pace. "Looks like an old tree root,"
Harriet pushed her hair back and looked at him
seriously. "Sport, what are you going to be when you grow
"You know what. You know I'm going to be a ball
"Well, I'm going to be a writer. And when I say that's a
mountain, that's a mountain." Satisfied, she turned back to
Sport put the football gently on the ground and knelt
beside her, looking over her shoulder at the notebook in
which she scribbled furiously.
"Now, as soon as you've got all the men's names down,
and their wives' names and their children's names, then you
figure out all their professions. You've got to have a doctor,
a lawyer — "
"And an Indian chief," Sport interrupted.
"No. Someone who works in television."
"What makes you think they have television?"
"I say they do. And, anyway, my father has to be in it,
"Well, then put mine in too. Put a writer in it."
"OK, we can make Mr Jonathan Fishbein a writer."
"And let him have a son like me who cooks for him."
Sport rocked back and forth on his heels, chanting in
singsong, "And let him be eleven years old like me, and let
him have a mother who went away and has all the money,
and let him grow up to be a ball player."
"Nooo," Harriet said in disgust. "Then you're not
making it up. Don't you understand?"
Sport paused. "No," he said.
"Just listen, Sport. See, now that we have all this written
down, I'll show you where the fun is." Harriet got very
businesslike. She stood up, then got on her knees in the soft
September mud so she could lean over the little valley
made between the two big roots of the tree. She referred
to her notebook every now and then, but for the most part
she stared intently at the mossy lowlands which made her
town. "Now, one night, late at night, Mr Charles Hanley is
in his filling station. He is just about to turn out the lights
Harriet the Spy
and go home because it is nine o'clock and time for him
to get ready for bed."
"But he's a grown-up!" Sport looked intently at the
spot occupied by the gas station.
"In this town everybody goes to bed at nine-thirty"
Harriet said definitely.
"Oh" - Sport rocked a little on his heels - "my father
goes to bed at nine in the morning. Sometimes I meet him
"And also, Dr Jones is delivering a baby to Mrs Harrison
right over here in the hospital. Here is the hospital, the
Carterville General Hospital." She pointed to the other
side of town. Sport looked at the left root.
"What is Mr Fishbein, the writer, doing?"
Harriet pointed to the centre of town. "He is in the
town bar, which is right here." Harriet looked down at the
town as though hypnotised. "Here's what happens. Now,
this night, as Mr Hanley is just about to close up, a long,
big old black car drives up and in it there are all these men
with guns. They drive in real fast and Mr Hanley gets
scared. They jump out of the car and run over and rob Mr
Hanley, who is petrified. They steal all the money in the gas
station, then they fill up -with gas free and then they zoom
off in the night. Mr Hanley is all bound and gagged on the
Sport's mouth hung open. "Then what?"
"At this same minute Mrs Harrison's baby is born and
Dr Jones says, 'You have a fine baby girl, Mrs Harrison, a
fine baby girl, ho, ho, ho.'"
"Make it a boy."
"No, it's a girl. She already has a boy."
"What does the baby look like?"
"She's ugly. Now, also at this very minute, on the other
side of town, over here past the gas station, almost to the
mountain, the robbers have stopped at a farmhouse which
belongs to Ole Farmer Dodge. They go in and find him
eating oatmeal because he doesn't have any teeth. They
throw the oatmeal on the floor and demand some other
food. He doesn't have anything but oatmeal, so they beat
him up. Then they settle down to spend the night. Now, at
this very minute, the police chief of Carterville, who is
called Chief Herbert, takes a stroll down the main street.
He senses something is not right and he wonders what
it is . . .
"Harriet. Get up out of that mud." A harsh voice rang
out from the third floor of the brownstone behind them.
Harriet looked up. There "was a hint of anxiety in her
face. "Oh, Ole Golly, I'm not in the mud."
The face of the nurse looking out of the window was
not the best-looking face in the world, but for all its
frowning, its sharp, dark lines, there "was kindness there.
"Harriet M. Welsch, you are to rise to your feet."
Harriet rose "without hesitation. "But, listen, "we'll have
to play Town standing up," she said plaintively. "That's the
Harriet the Spy
best way" came back sharply, and the head disappeared.
Sport stood up too. "Why don't we play football, then?"
"No, look, if I just sit like this I won't be in the mud."
So saying, she squatted on her heels next to the town.
"Now, he senses that there is something wrong — "
"How can he? He hasn't seen anything and it's all on
the other side of town."
"He just feels it. He's a very good police chief."
"Well," Sport said dubiously.
"So, since he's the only policeman in town, he goes
around and deputises everybody and he says to them,
'Something is fishy in this here town. I feel it in my bones,'
and everybody follows him and they get on their horses — "
"Horses!" Sport shrieked.
"They get in the squad car and they drive around town
until — "
"Harriet." The back door slammed and Ole Golly
marched squarely towards them across the yard. Her long
black shoes made a slap-slap noise on the brick.
"Hey, where are you going?" asked Harriet, jumping up.
Because Ole Golly had on her outdoor things. Ole Golly
just had indoor things and outdoor things. She never wore
anything as recognisable as a skirt, a jacket, or a sweater.
She just had yards and yards of tweed which enveloped her
like a lot of discarded blankets, -which ballooned out when
she walked, and -which she referred to as her Things.
"I'm going to take you somewhere. It's time you began
to see the world. You're eleven years old and it's time you
saw something." She stood there above them, so tall that
when they looked up they saw the blue sky behind her
Harriet felt a twinge of guilt because she had seen a lot
more than Ole Golly thought she had. But all she said was,
"Oh, boy," and jumped up and down.
"Get your coat and hurry. We're leaving right now." Ole
Golly always did everything right now. "Come on, Sport,
it won't hurt you to look around too."
"I have to be back at seven to cook dinner." Sport
jumped up as he said this.
"We'll be back long before that. Harriet and I eat at six.
Why do you eat so late?"
"He has cocktails first. I have olives and peanuts."
"That's nice. Now go get your coats."
Sport and Harriet ran through the back door, slamming
it behind them.
"What's all the noise?" spluttered the cook, who
whirled around just in time to see them fly through the
kitchen door and up the back stairs. Harriet's room was at
the top of the house, so they had three flights to run up
and they were breathless by the time they got there.
"Where're we going?" Sport shouted after Harriet's
"I don't know," Harriet panted as they entered her
room, "but Ole Golly always has good places."
Harriet the Spy
Sport grabbed his coat and was out the door and
halfway down the steps when Harriet said, "Wait, wait, I
can't find my notebook."
"Oh, whadya need that for?" Sport yelled from the
"I never go anywhere without it," came the muffled
"Aw, come on, Harriet." There "were great cracking
noises coming from the bedroom. "Harriet? Did you fall
A muffled but very relieved voice came out. "I found it.
It must have slipped behind the bed." And Harriet emerged
clutching a green composition book.
"You must have a hundred of them now," Sport said as
they went down the steps.
"No, I have fourteen. This is number fifteen. How could
I have a hundred? I've only been working since I "was
eight, and I'm only eleven now. I wouldn't even have this
many except at first I -wrote so big my regular route took
almost the "whole book."
"You see the same people every day?"
"Yes. This year I have the Dei Santi family, Little Joe
Curry, the Robinsons, Harrison Withers and a new one,
Mrs Plumber. Mrs Plumber is the hardest because I have to
get in the dumbwaiter."
"Can I go with you sometime?"
"No, silly. Spies don't go with friends. Anyway, "we'd get
caught if there were two of us. Why don't you get your
"Sometimes I "watch out my window a window across
"What happens there?"
"Nothing. A man comes home and pulls the shade
"That's not very exciting."
"It sure isn't."
They met Ole Golly waiting for them, tapping her foot,
outside the front door. They walked to Eighty-sixth Street,
took the cross-town bus, and soon were whizzing along in
the subway, sitting in a line - Ole Golly, then Harriet, then
Sport. Ole Golly stared straight ahead. Harriet was
scribbling furiously in her notebook.
"What are you writing?" Sport asked.
"I'm taking notes on all those people who are sitting
"Aw, Sport" - Harriet "was exasperated - "because I've
seen them and I want to remember them." She turned back
to her book and continued her notes:
MAN WITH ROLLED WHITE SOCKS, FAT LEGS. WOMAN WITH ONE
CROSS-EYE AND A LONG NOSE. HORRIBLE LOOKING LITTLE
BOY AND A FAT BLONDE MOTHER WHO KEEPS WIPING HIS NOSE
off. Funny lady looks like a teacher and is reading. I
Harriet the Spy
don't think I'd like to live where any of these people
live or do the things they do. i bet that little boy is
sad and cries a lot. i bet that lady with the cross-eye
looks in the mirror and just feels terrible.
Ole Golly leaned over and spoke to them. "We're going
to Far Rockaway. It's about three stops from here. I want
you to see how this person lives, Harriet. This is my family."
Harriet almost gasped. She looked up at Ole Golly in
astonishment, but Ole Golly just stared out the window
again. Harriet continued to write:
This is incredible. Could Ole Golly have a family? I
NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT. HOW COULD OLE GOLLY HAVE
A MOTHER AND FATHER? She's TOO OLD FOR ONE THING
and she's never said one word about them and i've
known her since i was born. also she doesn't get any
letters. Think about this. This might be important
They came to their stop and Ole Golly led them off the
"Gee," said Sport as they came up on to the sidewalk,
"we're near the ocean." And they could smell it, the salt,
and even a wild soft spray which blew gently across their
faces, then was gone.
"Yes," said Ole Golly briskly. Harriet could see a change
in her. She walked faster and held her head higher.
They were walking down a street that led to the water.
The houses, set back from the sidewalk -with a patch of
green in front, were built of yellow brick interspersed with
red. It wasn't very pretty, Harriet thought, but maybe they
liked their houses this way, better than those plain red brick
ones in New York.
Ole Golly was walking faster and looking sterner. She
looked as though she wished she hadn't come. Abruptly she
turned in at a sidewalk leading to a house. She strode
relentlessly up the steps, never looking back, never saying a
word. Sport and Harriet followed, wide-eyed, up the steps to
the front door, through the front hall, and out the back door.
She's lost her mind, Harriet thought. She and Sport
looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Then they saw
that Ole Golly -was heading for a small private house -which
sat in its own garden behind the apartment house. Harriet
and Sport stood still, not knowing what to do. This little
house was like a house in the country, the kind Harriet saw
when she went to Water Mill in the summer. The
unpainted front had the same soft grey of driftwood, the
roof a darker grey.
"Come on, chickens, let's get us a hot cup of tea." Ole
Golly, suddenly gay, waved from the funny little rotting
Harriet and Sport ran towards the house, but stopped
cold when the front door opened with a loud swish. There,
suddenly, was the largest woman Harriet had ever seen.
Harriet the Spy
"Why, lookahere what's coming," she bellowed, "looka
them lil rascals," and her great fat face crinkled into large
cheerful lumps as her mouth split to show a toothless grin.
She let forth a high burbling laugh.
Sport and Harriet stood staring, their mouths open. The
fat lady stood like a mountain, her hands on her hips, in a
flowered cotton print dress and enormous hanging coat
sweater. Probably the biggest sweater in the world, thought
Harriet; probably the biggest pair of shoes too. And her
shoes were a wonder. Long, long, black, bumpy things with
high, laced sides up to the middle of the shin, bulging with
the effort of holding in those ankles, their laces splitting
them into grins against the white of the socks below.
Harriet fairly itched to take notes on her.
"Wherecha get these lil things?" Her cheer rang out all
over the neighbourhood. "This the lil Welsch baby? That
"No, it's my husband," Harriet shouted.
Ole Golly turned a grim face. "Don't be snarky, Harriet,
and don't think you're such a wit either."
The fat lady laughed, making her face fall in lumps
again. She looks like dough, Harriet thought, about to be
made into a big round Italian loaf. She wanted to tell Sport
this, but Ole Golly was leading them in, all of them
squeezing past that mountain of a stomach because the fat
lady stood, rather stupidly, in the doorway.
Ole Golly marched to the teakettle and put a fire under
it. Then she turned in a businesslike way and introduced
them. "Children, this is my mother, Mrs Golly. Mother —
you can close the door now, Mother. This is Harriet
"Harriet M. Welsch," Harriet corrected.
"You know perfectly well you have no middle name,
but if you insist, Harriet M. Welsch. And this is Sport.
What's your last name, Sport?"
"Rocque. Simon Rocque." He pronounced it Rock.
"Simon, Simon, hee, hee, hee." Harriet felt very ugly all
of a sudden.
"You are not to make fun of anyone's name." Ole Golly
loomed over Harriet and it "was one of those times when
Harriet knew she meant it.
"I take it back," Harriet said quickly.
"That's better." Ole Golly turned away cheerfully. "Now
let's all sit down and have some tea."
"Waal, ain't she a cute lil thing." Harriet could see that
Mrs Golly was still hung up on the introductions. She
stood like a mountain, her big ham hands dangling
helplessly at her sides.
"Sit down, Mother," Ole Golly said gently, and Mrs
Harriet and Sport looked at each other. The same
thought "was occurring to both of them. This fat lady
wasn't very bright.
Harriet the Spy
Mrs Golly sat to the left of Harriet. She leaned over
Harriet, in fact, and looked directly into her eyes. Harriet
felt like something in a zoo.
"Now, Harriet, look around you," Ole Golly said sternly
as she poured the tea. "I brought you here because you've
never seen the inside of a house like this. Have you ever
seen a house that has one bed, one table, four chairs, and a
bathtub in the kitchen?"
Harriet had to move her chair back to see around Mrs
Golly, who leaned towards her, motionless, still looking.
The room was a strange one. There was a sad little rug next
to the stove. Harrison Withers has only a bed and a table,
Harriet thought to herself. But since she didn't want Ole
Golly to know she had been peering through Harrison
Withers' skylight, she said nothing.
"I didn't think you had," said Ole Golly. "Look around.
And drink your tea, children. You may have more milk and
sugar if I haven't put enough."
"I don't drink tea," Sport said timidly.
Ole Golly shot an eye at him. "What do you mean you
don't drink tea?"
"I mean I never have."
"You mean you've never tasted it?"
"No," said Sport and looked a little terrified.
Harriet looked at Ole Golly. Ole Golly -wore an arch
expression which signified that she was about to quote.
"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the
hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.'"
Ole Golly said this steadily and sedately, then leaned back
in her chair with a satisfied look at Sport. Sport looked
"Henry James," said Ole Golly, "1843-1916. From
Portrait of a Lady."
"What's that?" Sport asked Harriet.
"A novel, silly," said Harriet.
"Oh, like my father -writes," said Sport, and dismissed
the whole thing.
"My dotter's a smart one," mumbled Mrs Golly, still
looking straight at Harriet.
"Behold, Harriet," Ole Golly said, "a woman who never
had any interest in anyone else, nor in any book, nor in any
school, nor in any way of life, but has lived her whole life
in this room, eating and sleeping and waiting to die."
Harriet stared at Mrs Golly in horror. Should Ole Golly
be saying these things? Wouldn't Mrs Golly get mad? But
Mrs Golly just sat looking contentedly at Harriet. Perhaps,
thought Harriet, she forgets to turn her head away from
something unless she is told.
"Try it, Sport, it's good." Harriet spoke to Sport quickly
in an effort to change the subject.
Sport took a sip. "It's not bad," he said weakly.
"Try everything, Sport, at least once." Ole Golly said
this as though her mind weren't really on it. Harriet looked
at her curiously. Ole Golly was acting very strangely
Harriet the Spy
indeed. She seemed... was she angry? No, not angry. She
seemed sad. Harriet realised with a start that it was the first
time she had ever seen Ole Golly look sad. She hadn't even
known Ole Golly could be sad.
Almost as though she were thinking the same thing, Ole
Golly suddenly shook her head and sat up straight. "Well,"
she said brightly, "I think we have had enough tea and
enough sights for one day. I think we had better go home
The most extraordinary thing happened next. Mrs
Golly leaped to her fat feet and threw her teacup down on
the floor. "You're always leaving. You're always leaving," she
"Now, Mother," Ole Golly said calmly.
Mrs Golly hopped around the middle of the floor like a
giant doll. She made Harriet think of those balloons,
blown up like people, that bounce on the end of a string.
Sport giggled suddenly. Harriet felt like giggling but wasn't
sure she should.
Mrs Golly bobbed away. "Just come here to leave me
again. Always leaving. Thought you'd come for good this
"Now, Mother," Ole Golly said again, but this time got
to her feet, walked to her mother, and laid a firm hand on
the bouncing shoulder. "Mother," she said gently, "you
know I'll be here next week."
"Oh, that's right," said Mrs Golly. She stopped jumping
immediately and gave a big smile to Harriet and Sport.
"Oh, boy," said Sport under his breath.
Harriet sat fascinated. Then Ole Golly got them all
bundled into their clothes and they were outside on the
street again, having waved to a cheerful Mrs Golly. They
walked along through the darkening day.
"Boy, oh, boy," was all Sport could say.
Harriet couldn't "wait to get back to her room to finish
Ole Golly looked steadily ahead. There was no
expression on her face at all.